BT Engineer Awarded £7,500 Speaks Out To Help Keep Workers Safe

Lawyer Urges Employers To Do All They Can To Prevent ‘Entirely Avoidable’ Injuries

30.04.2012

A British Telecom engineer who suffers from a high pitch buzzing in his ears after years of working with faulty equipment provided by his employer has spoken out to help keep workers safe.

With the help of specialist industrial deafness lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, Stephen Starosta, who works as a Telephone Engineer, has now received £7,500 from his employers BT to cover the cost of equipment to help deal with his illness. 

Stephen is now joining his lawyers in urging bosses to do all they can to prevent ‘entirely avoidable’ workplace injuries that have turned his life upside down. 

The 56-year-old started work for BT as a telephone engineer in 1989. His job involved using BT’s ‘green set’ and ‘yellow set’ oscillators, it is thought that the equipment is still widely used in the communications industry despite BT having withdrawn them some time ago.

The devices transmit a constant high pitched sound through a headset, allowing the user to listen for changes in tone to track faults in the telephone cables.

Experts at Irwin Mitchell are currently representing 250 people in Sheffield and 145 in Leeds who have suffered injury due to BT Oscillators.

Although the telecoms giant has since admitted that the equipment is dangerous and has withdrawn both oscillators from use, Stephen and his lawyers are concerned that other companies, who have been sold the old devices by BT previously, are still putting workers at risk.

Mark Allen, an expert in tinnitus and industrial deafness at Irwin Mitchell’s Sheffield office who successfully represented Stephen in his battle for justice, said: “Although we’re delighted to have helped Stephen secure funds for his future, there are hundreds of engineers in the region and far more across the UK who have used these oscillators in the past who must not be forgotten.

“It is of huge concern that there are still engineers who could be using these dangerous devices day in day out.

“It is vital that employers check their workers are not using these incredibly harmful oscillators to prevent them developing deafness and tinnitus. The safety of workers needs to be the main priority. People have the right to expect to go to work and carry out their duties without fear of suffering what are often entirely avoidable injuries.”

Commenting on his injury dad of two Stephen, from Norton in Sheffield, said: “When the tinnitus started, and even when I spoke to my GP, I assumed I was just one of those unlucky people who developed a ringing in my ears. It was only when I started chatting to colleagues who had the same problems that I realised that the equipment at work may have been the cause.”

He continues: “The buzzing in my ears is infuriating, it can go up and down and is present for more than half the day. I have learnt to live with it and have just had to accept that it won’t ever get any better.

“For me this was never about the money as nothing can make up for my injuries or the impact it’s had on my work and family life. I only hope my case encourages employers to do all they can to keep workers safe and check tools supplied are fit for purpose. The consequences can be devastating and to know my tinnitus may easily have been avoided is a difficult thought to live with.”

Tony Rupa, Head of Legal Services at the Communication Workers Union, says: “People traditionally associate tinnitus and hearing damage with heavy manufacturing and music industries, but there are many people who work in the communications sector who are exposed to loud, continuous and high pitched noises.

“The Communication Workers’ Union is assisting around 3,500 members with claims arising from the use of oscillators/amplifiers in their work, many of which are suffering with tinnitus.”

If you or a loved one has suffered from hearing damage such as acoustic shock, tinnitus, and noise-induced hearing loss caused by conditions at work our solicitors could help you claim compensation. See our Industrial Disease Claims page for more information.